Identify What Matters to Your Personal Brand

Identifying what matters to you and your personal brand sounds like an easy task, but most people don’t think very much about it. You probably go about your daily life making split-second choices (often subconsciously) rather than trying to make each decision based on whether it jibes with what’s important to you.

Developing a personal brand requires being more aware of yourself and your choices. There are a variety of ways that you can heighten your awareness of the things that really matter to you.

Know your needs

To look at what matters to you, you first need to identify what you need. Needs develop unconsciously as you grow up and become a central part of your character. In order to brand yourself, examining your needs is crucial.

Abraham Maslow developed a theory called Maslows Hierarchy of Needs that states that you must have your basic needs met before you can examine your higher-level needs. The figure illustrates Maslow’s hierarchy. Starting at the bottom, each level of need must be met in order for someone to be able to consider — and work toward — meeting the next higher level.

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Maslow’s theory illustrates that if you have physiological needs — you are hungry, tired, cold, or hot, for example — you won’t be able to concentrate on much else. If your physiological needs are met but you have safety needs — you don’t feel safe in your environment — you can’t worry much about fulfilling your need for belonging and love.

If all three of the lower levels of need are fulfilled, you can start to focus on esteem, which is where personal branding can really start to take place. This level of need involves being able to feel that you do your job well, respect yourself and others, and align the work you do with your sense of self. This alignment is absolutely necessary in order to authentically build your personal brand.

The highest level of need is self-actualization. Maslow described self-actualization as becoming everything that you’re capable of becoming. Striving toward fulfilling self-actualization is the goal of personal branding. If you achieve that goal, you get to be who you really are, and you’ll shine brightly.

To help connect the hierarchy of needs with what happens in your workplace, look at the table, which spells out what needs fall into each of Maslow’s categories and then looks at the hierarchy through a work-specific lens.

Considering Your Workplace Needs
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Hierarchy of Career Needs
Physiological: Food, shelter, sleep, water, oxygen, sex, freedom of movement, and a moderate temperature Career Physiological Needs: A paycheck, breaks to eat or rest, and work hours that provide time to go home and rest
Safety: Security, stability, safety of body and family, freedom from violence, and rituals and routines Career Safety: Job security and no threat of layoffs; workplace safety including a workplace free of violence, psychological abuse, and hazardous toxic exposure; property safety; and regular and predictable work hours
Belonging and Love: Friendships, family, sexual intimacy, and community Career Belonging: Having positive relationships with coworkers, boss, and customers; cultural fit; and an affinity to the mission of the organization
Self-Esteem: Self-confidence, mutual respect of and for others, achievement, and recognition Career Esteem: Kudos such as "Wow, you did such a great job!", promotions, titles, new levels of responsibility, pay raises, respect for fellow employees, a feeling of being respected, and alignment of work with sense of self
Self-Actualization: Knowledge, understanding, peace, self-fulfillment, life mission, pursuit of inner talents, and creativity, beauty Career Mastery: Fully using your talents in your work, contributing to the greater good, knowing your purpose in life, finding meaning in your work, and having a sense of mastery

Needs are important to consider because people commonly stop themselves from trying something new or taking risks for fear of putting their basic needs in jeopardy. For example, you may wonder, “Can I try this and not get fired from my work?” or “If I develop my personal brand, will everyone laugh at me?”

Needs direct your feelings and influence your values. They influence your motivation. Determining what you need will help you understand what you value and where you need to set your goals.

Take some time to answer these two questions in a journal:

  • What needs of mine are met?

  • What needs of mine are not met?

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